Now we are two

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Two years ago I had the Tour de France on in the background in a delivery room at the local hospital. This year, Georgina has got her own wheels.
next stop, the Champ Elysses
The trike is a handmedown from my neighbours, and has been locked in the bike shed for about 18 months. I don’t think she’s be rivaling Bradley Wiggins or Victoria Pembleton just yet.


Continuing the “make do and mend” theme of the day, her other big present was a handmade toy. She loves Show Me Show Me on Cbeebies. It’s an unusual show in that it doesn’t have mountains of tatty tie-in merch. So, in the footsteps of my mother’s bold attempt to make me a Bagpuss in the 70s, I made her a Stuffy.
Stuffy. we love you Stuffy. you're the hero we all adore. handmade #cbeebies toy
This is partially because she loves him, and partially because even 25 years after my last sewing class I can still make a cube. Tracking down all the fabrics took longer than the actual sewing. She’s already taken to putting things in his back pocket.

Here’s his song on the CBeebies site.

The last part of the day will be a Spider-man iced cake. I baked it last night and haven’t had a chance to ice it yet. I asked her last night what birthdays meant and she has told me it involves hats. So expect a photo she will be embarrassed about tomorrow.

She’s learnt her numbers (although is prone to starting to count at 4) and colours. She can also load the DVD player, with favourites such as Singin’ in the Rain, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Bagpuss. I moved them to a lower shelf after asking her to “put it back on the table” only to find her standing on tiptoe on a chair trying to reach the shelf where they were then kept. Her current bedtime books include The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Tony Robinson version of Odysseus. She helps water the garden, and weed it.

More tomorrow…I have to go and ice a cake the Marvel way.

Singer sewing machines

Monday, 10 January 2011

I did not learn to sew on a Singer. Instead I used a pre-war German machine that had been in the family since the Plymouth blitz. But over the last decade or so I’ve collected a couple of Singers. They are lovely machines, but I’ll admit I don’t need them so [shameless plug] I’ve put them on eBay [end plug].

The 28K manual machine is very beautiful.
singer 28K machine
Checking its serial number on the Singer website reveals it was built in the Clydeside factory at Kilbowie in 1927. I used it two months ago to make GJ a headband. You simply don’t get such ornate decoration on modern machines. The vineleaves design on the back access plate is a particular favourite.
back access plate

The 201K treadle machine, in contrast, is more utilitarian.


It was built in 1941, again at Kilbowie, and shows how stripped down wartime production was. The decals are simple, and the access plates aren’t etched to such a level.


Of course, these machines were in high demand during World War II, as clothes had to be made and mended, and new machines were needed to replace ones lost to bombings. The sheer number of complex feet for it shows how fancy home dressmaking was.

I’d always wanted a treadle machine: I used to use a biker caff in Exeter that had converted them into tables and I loved the rocking motion of the machine. The 201K is currently in use as my computer desk: I sometimes find myself rocking the treadle foot back and forth whilst working. But I need space downstairs for my oak teacher’s desk, and a semi-working treadle machine isn’t as essential.

I still, of course, have the machine I learnt on and plan to teach GJ on it when she’s old enough.

Are you going to Bovey craft fair?

Sunday, 7 June 2009

I always regard Devonian craft fairs with a certain amount of caution. When living in Devon, you get rather used to seeing vile slipware, felt-based things and artisan clothing that only middle class women with a lot of money can afford. However, bigmagpie and I risked a trip to the highly recommended Bovey Tracey Contemporary craft fair.

On the downside, there was vile slipware. I’m sure some people like it. I even have an awesome slipware pie dish that Law gave us as a wedding gift which I love. But an awful lot of it is just dull, and makes a virtue out of being slipshoddy. I’d question it as being contemporary, as well, since the designs were either classic Devonware or 70s hippy. I don’t know if the format is intrinsically reactionary or not, but it’s not my idea of good design.

On the upside, after our initial browse we went on to buy things. It took time to seek out the kind of quirky design work I like, but I ended up buying a year’s worth of stationery from various designers and a piece of art for my stairs.

  • Helaina Sharpley does wirework art, and also had some cute cards of her work ideal for sending to a tea-loving friend.
  • Teresa Green is an illustrator who also prints her work onto home goods such as teatowels and aprons as well as purses and bags. I got some more cards here.
  • Julia Manning isn’t an obvious like for me, but I liked her bird drawings and her cards featured fragments of her nature paintings.
  • Janine Partington is an enameller, one of the crafts I wish I could devote some time to as I loved it in metalwork at school. Her cards are again details of her works. I particularly liked her copper series of designs.
  • Sarah Roberts is another printmaker with an eye on the natural world and a keeness for silhouettes of plants.
  • Rachel Eardley is another strong illustrator. I toyed with the Tunnocks print for an age before realising I have too many things waiting to be framed already and bought a set of cards instead.
  • Jennifer Collier‘s stand was initially too busy for us to take a look at, but on the second pass of the marquee we got in. I bought a small canvas to hang with another objet trouvé that hangs in my stairs. Actually, most of my first flight of stairs is decorated with objet trouvé including an artwork I made myself. Hmmm… Anyway, her work was a delight and I’ve even taken away an idea for how to store my various hairbands, fascinators and vintage hats.

I came back out with 25% of my budget for the day intact (even after a savoury crepe for lunch and a yummy carrot cake as a mid-afternoon snack). I’m not sure I’d go every year, but it was worth digging around for the good stuff.

Mixing it

Sunday, 28 December 2008

The ‘how to’ of one of the bags I made can now be viewed in this flickr set.

Out flew the web and floated wide

Friday, 26 December 2008

Now the majority of presents are unwrapped, I can safely write-up what I’ve been making for people this year.

Last year, the littlest birds took longer than expected and left my fingers a bit trashed from handling the dried lavender so much, so this year I tried something different but related: embroidery. Kel had sent me a link to Sublime Stitching, a site where you can get some very funky designs. I loaded up on them, got a new hoop and a stash of coloured threads along with a stash of blank bags from the clever baggers, and started work. This is Kel’s, which used patterns from Sublime Stitching. As she is a writer and is back at college, I used the sexy librarian set to create a writer/study theme.
In progress Kel's bag Typewriter tip tip tip

Having discovered my basic embroidery skills are intact (although I appear to have been the only person of my age to have been taught stitching at school), I’ve moved on and started to develop my own designs. This, based on a technical drawing of the 1949 design, is for a bug-owning member of the family:
Finished bug
There are several more designs I worked up from wireframe or technical drawings, and some that came about from sketches and which I never got time to photograph before having to send them off. I watched a lot of Merlin whilst sewing, which explains the title of this post. I’ve some blank bags left, so will get around to making some more custom designs and documenting them. There’s also one design I did document from initial sketch to final gift and that the receiver hasn’t had yet, so I’ll put that up in a few days.

And sew on…

Friday, 7 November 2008

Winter arrived last week, with a cold snap and the usual beautiful Andrew Davies Dickens adaptation (Little Dorrit on iPlayer for locals; colonials will have to find their own way to see it). Having idly wondered what I could do to make presents this year, since giving people lavender birds every year is a bit harsh, the arrival of the Prestigeous BBC Adaptation made me start thinking in all earnest. And in a launderette.

It doesn’t involve lavender. I off to collect supplies tomorrow, and may go crazy and buy an electric sewing machine as my much loved hand Singer is prone to losing tension.

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